The best iPad apps for design

Whether you're sketching, creating typography, or using vectors, find out which free and paid iPad apps are worth downloading to create your best design work.

Which are the best iPad apps for designers? There are certainly plenty of strong contenders. Here, we bring you 12 of the best iPad apps that'll help designers produce great work.

The iPad is a fantastic tool for designers. It can allow you to sketch out ideas while out and about, or even help you produce a finished piece, particularly if used in conjunction with a good iPad stylus. There are many apps that can help designers make the most out of their iPad, but which are worth downloading?

We've collected 12 iPad apps that we think are the most useful apps for designers into one article for you here. Of course, they're only the tip of the iceberg, so if you're a designer and you've got a favourite app that hasn't made it onto our list, let us know about it on Twitter or in the comments below.

You might also want to check out our guide to the best apps for drawing on your iPad, along with the best free vectors we've found online. If you use an Android tablet, take a look at our similar round-up of the best Android apps for designers.

Adobe Capture is specifically designed for your iPad (or iPhone) and lets you turn photos into vector graphics to be used in other Creative Cloud apps such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Animate, Illustrator InDesign and Premiere Pro.

This app is the combination of Brush CC, Color CC, Hue CC and Shape CC - letting you play around with geometric patterns, colours, shape and custom brushes.

The latest version lets you turn smoothing on or off.

View Adobe Capture in the iOS App Store.

This is a professional graphic design and illustration app designed for artists on the go –working seamlessly on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil.

Although it’s a little on the pricey side, it may be worth the investment if you’re wanting a polished look on your graphics. 

The app allows you to create complex vector-based PDF and SVG files using the powerful pen tool for customised shapes.

This app offers layer effects such as shadows, glow, multiple strokes and fills, as well as canvas scale, rulers and units to create dimensions with precision.

You can also use classic brush and pencil tools for fluid drawing and sketching.

Autodesk Graphic is available for £8.99 or US$8.99 from the iOS App Store.

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iFontMaker is the original font app dedicated to the iPad – and it still holds its ground.

Create your own typeface and install it on all your devices, or use as a webfont.

The long-awaited version 2 arrived in 2016, offering new brushes and multitouch support, Bezier editing, kerning customisation and image and GIF animation exporting options.

iFontMaker is available for £7.99 or US$7.99 from the iOS App Store.

Ikonica is a simple but helpful app for developers, designers and business owners who are working with brand identity.

You can upload an icon image from your camera roll, or drag and drop from your Mac, and get an instant preview of different icon designs in various backgrounds and sizes.

You can send your icon designs to clients via email, iMessage or social media, and upload icons directly from Dropbox.

Ikonica is free to download from the iOS App Store.

Astropad Graphics Tablet is an iPad app, but it works with a Mac app to turn your iPad into a graphics tablet.

Yes, that's right, you can use your iPad to draw directly into Photoshop or another applications on your Mac including Illustrator, Lightroom, Corel Painter, Manga Studio, Pixelmator, Mischief with Astropad.

Essentially, what you see on your iPad is the same as your Mac. A new technology called Liquid allows twice as fast performance compared with AirPlay, better than JPEG files, and designed specifically for Wi-Fi.

It features palm rejection, pinch and zoom, customisable shortcuts and importantly, pressure sensitivity to allow it to work with lots of styluses, including the Apple Pencil.

Astropad Graphics Tablet is available for £28.99 or US$29.99 on the App Store.

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Adobe Comp is able to work on your iPad in compatibility with all Adobe software – but this app lets graphic designers play around with text, shapes and fonts.

Free fonts are available to choose from Typekit, and the latest version now lets you play around with third-party fonts installed on your device. The latest version lets you instantly view mock ups, edit multiple selections and use keyboard shortcuts.

The best part of Adobe software is of course having your files sync to any device whenever you need them, meaning you can seamlessly pick up your work from the iPad to edit on your desktop.

View Adobe Comp CC on the App Store.

FontBook is a useful tool for designers as it offers an up-to-date library of typefaces from 150 international type foundries. This covers more than 46,000 typefaces from 9479 font families (as of August 2016).

The iPad version is designed as an invitation to browse and play. Two types of bookmarks help you to compile lists of favourite fonts and comparing chosen typefaces using sample texts and coloured backgrounds.

You can browse by Class, Foundry, Designer, Year or Name, or you can search if you've got a particular font family, foundry or designer in mind. Plus, there are font lists that let you search by criteria such as genre, stylistic period, similarity or popularity.

The interface of FontBook has been completely revised in version 5.0 – such as a new app font, icon and easy access sample text editor.

FontBook is available for £0.99 or US$0.99  from the App Store.

You can create vector art with Illustrator Draw, with lots of handy tools at your fingertips to make the experience easier and more efficient.

You can zoom up to 64x to apply fine details and customise your toolbar and brushes. Adobe Ink and Apple Pencil (with iPad Pro), Pencil by FiftyThree, and Adonit and Wacom styluses work alongside this app. 

You'll be able to create perfect lines and curves thanks to the Touch Slide digital ruler, and add images from multiple sources including the Creative Cloud market for tracing and collage.

2GB of complimentary storage for file syncing and sharing comes with the basic level of Creative Cloud membership.

As with Photoshop Sketch, Illustrator Draw comes included in your Creative Cloud subscription.

Support for pressure sensitive styli including Adobe's own Ink & Slide offers added appeal, too.

Illustrator Draw is free to download from the App Store.

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Paper is a gorgeously designed sketchbook app that could come in really handy for doodling ideas or sketching up designs while on the move.

The expressive ink engine means that, even when you're using your finger to draw in the app, the results are generated reacting to your movements, so the lines won't be consistent in thickness for a more natural sketching experience. Better still you can use the app with FiftyThree's Pencil stylus for even better results.

Bring text, photos and sketches together, and see all your ideas come together in one place

It's a really intuitive app, allowing you to use gestures to move between sketchbooks quickly and fluidly. You can rewind by using two fingers to return to any previous point in your sketch too.

You can share your ideas as PDFs, in Keynote or as Powerpoint presentations.

Paper is completely free with no in-house purchases.

Paper by FiftyThree is free to download from the App Store.

Photoshop Sketch offers up drawing tools including a graphite pencil, ink pen, blending markers and an eraser, as well as brushes including acrylic and pastel. It's essentially the design tools from Photoshop condensed into a mobile app, so you should find it familiar and infinitely useful.

There's also the Photoshop Mix app that's aimed more at photographers than designers but could come in handy. It's where you'll find Photoshop's other tools including Content-Aware Fill and Camera Shake Reduction, as well as other image enhancement features.

Both are connected to Creative Cloud and are free as part of your subscription.

View Adobe Photoshop Sketch in the App Store.

View Adobe Photoshop Mix in the App Store.

Autodesk's Sketchbook app is a tool for drawing, sketching and painting on your iPad. It's free, but we recommend paying for the Pro in-app purchase to get your hands on a wealth of additional tools. 

Downloading the free app will get you a selection of 10 preset brushes, synthetic pressure-sensitivity, a layer editor with up to three layers and 16 blending modes, and symmetry and proportional transform tools.

But if you're up for paying the £4.99 or US$4.99 for the in-app purchase of the Pro features, you'll get more than 100 brushes, the full Copic Color Library, more layers and blending modes, gradient fills and advanced selection tools. You can purchase a SketchBook subscription using your iTunes account on your mobile device. SketchBook Pro features across all Mac and iOS devices with a single purchase.

View Autodesk Sketchbook on the App Store.

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We love Tayasui Sketches for sketching out ideas when we're out and about and get a sudden burst of inspiration.

It's free to download and initially offers a set of tools that'll do the trick for doodling.

You can choose from realistic watercolour wet brushes, brushes, and a colour eye-dropper, and have the option to import photos.

Using your iPad you can organise drawings into personalised folders. Tayasui also supports Apple, Wacom, and Adonit Styluses.

You'll get a pencil, rotring pen, watercolour brush, felt pen, eraser, and the ability to pick colours from a colour wheel. Only the bare minimum buttons are shown to make for a clean canvas.

You can also choose from a selection of paper types with varying textures, all of which result in realistic-looking strokes when combined with the tools available.

If you enjoy using the app, you can pay £4.99 or US$4.99 for the Pro version as an in-app purchase, which includes the additional ability to import photos, a pen brush, oil pastel, acrylic brush, airbrush, brushes editor, eyedropper, and more exporting and layers options. You'll also get pressure-sensitive stylus support.

View Tayasui Sketches on the App Store.